MacTracker - The Mac Database

by Chris Howard Apr 07, 2006

We Mac fans love information. That’s why we hang out on every Mac blog on the street. I guess we are also a bit analytical. A couple of sites I have found particularly useful, when I’ve needed information on Macs, from days gone by are: Every Mac and Apple History.

Now I have discovered there is an offline Mac history database, called MacTracker:

Mactracker provides detailed information on every Apple, Motorola, PowerComputing, and UMAX Mac OS computer ever made, including items such as processor speed, memory, optical drives, graphic cards, supported Mac OS versions, and expansion options. Also included is information on Apple mice, keyboards, displays, printers, scanners, digital cameras, iPod, AirPort Base Stations, Newtons, and Mac OS versions.

That’s a lot of useful information and despite the name, it does include more than just Macs. It’s particularly useful when you are shopping for secondhand gear.

How I encountered Mactracker
Over the last few days, I was trying to decide what Mac to buy for my kids. They currently have a five year old G3 iMac. It’s adequate, but newer programs run slowly. And my boys have been complaining that Wesnoth takes forever to load. I had been considering the ants-pants-super-duper-Mac-mini-with-the-lot but car repairs put paid to that idea. And who did I really want that for anyway? Thanks to fellow AM-er, James, for setting me straight. Despite not knowing the butt end from the “but…” end of a kid, he had the good sense to say, “They’re not going to do anything overly strenuous with it, are they?” (They are after all still at primary school and they don’t play any graphic or CPU intensive games or do any video editing) And he was right. It was just me who wanted to run it as a media center-esque unit. So a secondhand eMac became the machine of choice. And before long, Reboot Logistics provided. Selling on eBay, Reboot are an Australian reseller of formerly leased equipment who I’ve bought from previously and highly recommend. If you want an old dual G4 Powermac, they’re selling quite a few at the moment.

Throughout this umming and ahhing process, I was regularly referring to Mactracker. Now at version four, I don’t know where it’s been all my life, but we are a match made in Heaven.

Mactracker in use
As you can see in the image at the head of this article, Mactracker uses a Finder like layout (Explorer if you are from the Windows world) with the machine type on the left and machines on the right; and it allows you to use colored labeling just as you can in Finder.

When you double click a machine icon, it opens a window with tabs for General machine information; Memory/Graphics; Expansion/Ports; History; and Notes. Although that varies depending on what type of machine you are looking at.


One feature I really liked, though it is totally superfluous, is the “Startup Chime”. Anyone who was around in 1984 will get a bit nostalgic hearing the original Mac chime again. A simple sound that told you, you were using something not like any other computer around at the time.

I found Mactracker exceptionally useful for comparing different models I considered purchasing - everything from eMacs, G4 iMacs, Mac Minis, and PowerMac G4 dual CPUs. Mactracker has another nice feature where it shows an icon of the Mac it’s running on.

Further, Mactracker lets you create smart categories. For example, one that shows all machines that will run the current version of OS X.

Also, if you want, you can export the data to your iPod.

And just so you can show your PC friends what they’re missing out on, what long illustrious history Apple has, there’s a Windows version.

Shortcomings and feature requests
Mactracker does have a few minor shortcomings in that if you compare two machines side by side, the ones without focus are greyed out, making them somewhat hard to read. It also has some holes in its information, especially model numbers.

Features I’d like to see added are:
- Statistical information such as noise levels and Xbench figures
- A facility to tabulate a side by side comparrison.

MacTracker is free, but does ask for a donation, which I think is worth making. Although you can get this information online, Mactracker makes it considerably easier, and I’d highly recommend it. It gets high marks: 9/10.


  • Haven’t looked at this app for a couple of years Chris, but just this week someone asked for something just like it!!!

    You’re right - it’s great when it comes to second hand stuff. In the case above, they wanted to know what type of RAM (and how much) they could put into their second hand iBook.

    It’s especially helpful when one mac form factor has changed over the years and you’re not sure what part you need eg. eMacs moving from PC to SD/DDR ram.

    Makes ordering for heaps of computers less of a stress!

    David Czepanski had this to say on Apr 01, 2006 Posts: 25
  • A few years ago when I used to love finding out what hardware was in certain computers, this would have appealed to me a great deal.  I’m not into that so much these days but it still seems like a clever little App.

    Is it useful for someone who wanted to buy a spare part for their ‘tosh and get it fitted in, or is it basically for finding older Apple stuffs?

    I think I’m going to download and have a look around actually.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Apr 01, 2006 Posts: 104
  • The one item that make this a real must-have for Mac support is the listing of which Hardware Test CD each model requires. That alone has saved me hours of grief. RAM specs and the Port lists are great too.

    Dan Ebeck had this to say on Apr 03, 2006 Posts: 23
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